Felice Levini

Galleria Pio Monti

Where do angels live? Above our heads, in the skies of our cities. With an installation that recalls Wim Wenders’ Berlin angels, Felice Levini has imagined them suspended in the sky above Rome, sketching them in black on white at the center of a cloth outlined by the skyline of the Eternal City, and then stretching the cloth across the ceiling. One might say that those wingless shapes flying above the city are not angels, but really humans, the outlines of acrobatic parachutists, fixed and stopped in a timeless space that Levini creates with an ambiguity that refers as much to the craziness of science as to the power of the imagination and the fable. And the image, which finally comes together in Levini’s paintings and at the outer edges of his installations, is the image of an uncertain time: it is painting and thus supposedly eternal and fixed, but it is also vibrating and composed of innumerable atoms of color, immanent as a video image.

“Neither intimate/nor nostalgic” reads one of Levini’s first statements. He emerged as an artist in 1981, but over the course of the ’80s, he remained faithful to this terse as well as demanding program. Not intimate implies neither visceral, nor romantic, nor evasive, and not nostalgic could mean not easily seduced by the regret that is seized from every image of the past, and given to a questionable mania for quotation.

“Neither intimate/nor nostalgic” is a phrase that, now more than then, reveals its veiled criticism of the easy habits of post-Modernism, the desire to relate back to a lesson of method, to individuate ways for overcoming decadent Modernism, and finally to lead us beyond the 20th century. Levini has begun the search for a new language, and for a way to articulate it in a catalogue of images that has been enriched bit by bit over the years, in ever different combinations, but without ever annulling or forgetting anything of his past work. He is always ready to recombine old and new elements. His art is a sum of personal and collective memories that he has condensed in the small parallelepiped at the center of the gallery; it is a fulcrum of a suggestive play of light and an equally suggestive allegorical play. The compass, the skulls, the hanged man, the plan of the city, all indicate the numerous faces of this hermetic object, a milestone that potentially could contain all the images and all the forms of Levini’s vocabulary.

In the endless permutations of his figures and his phantasms, he refers to the conceptual heritage that marked his work from the beginning. But Levini takes the next step to restore all of art’s evocative and suggestive power and to wager on the possibility that rigor and imagination result in incompatibility. For more than ten years, Levini has staked his work on this arresting wager. It is rigidly composed in the automatic play of pointillism, and yet it remains extraordinarily free to capture the spaces of our fantasy and the most disquieting symbols of universal mythologies.

Alessandra Mammì

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.